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Mental Health Days in the Workplace

For many companies, keeping production levels high while keeping employees happy is at the top of their goals.  They put effort into trainings, strive to increase performance, and even offer health screenings or health education.  The question to consider involves mental health days being offered to employees.  Do many companies put forth effort into recognizing employee mental health and offer mental health days?  The good news is that mental health in the workplace is starting to get more of the attention it deserves.  And with statistics showing that 1 in 5 American adults have a mental health condition, many companies are working towards incorporating mental health days into their employee calendars.

In a 2017 survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson, 88% of employers want to make behavioral health a top priority over the next three years.  Mental health conditions lead to absenteeism, decreased productivity, and higher healthcare costs in employees.  A report by the National Business Group on Health estimated that mental illness and substance abuse disorders cost U.S. employers $17 billion each year, plus 217 million days of lost work productivity.”  With such staggering numbers, changes need to occur in the workplace.

In a recent tweet that went viral, Madalyn Parker, a web developer in Ann Arbor, Michigan shared in her out-of-office email reply that she was taking a couple days off to focus on her mental health.  The CEO of her company actually responded by thanking Madalyn for helping to, “cut through the stigma” of mental health.  Obviously, company approaches to mental health days differ.  Some companies require employees have a note from a doctor or counselor.  Other companies have established mental health policies that allow time for employees to take care of their mental well-being.  While some employers give a certain amount of PTO (paid time off) and let the employees decide how to best use it. 

As an employee, it is helpful to know the signs to watch for that may mean a mental health day is needed in your calendar.

·         You are suddenly not sleeping well or have developed insomnia

·         Your weekends are not enough to destress

·         You are not as nice as you’d like to be, especially being “snippy with your spouse, your kids and your co-workers”

·         Your interest or enthusiasm about your job is lacking

Use your mental health days to unplug from work emails and phone calls.  Take care of personal issues that are causing additional stress and worry.  And most importantly, visit a doctor or therapist to address a specific mental health issue.  As companies continue to learn more about mental health, reduce the stigma associated with it, and incorporate mental health days into their calendars, the more mentally healthy their employees will be.


Lori Atkinson, Operations Assistant for The Kim Foundation

Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015 as an Operations Assistant.  She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UNL in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools for ten years and started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory in 2010. Lori assists with many of the day-to-day tasks for The Kim Foundation which includes scheduling presentations in the community, coordinating booths at conferences, attending mental health trainings, researching mental illness/suicide, and working community events.  Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.